Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Play NYC, an annual video-game convention located in the big-apple, New York City itself. Now, I didn’t quite know what to expect going in, especially with this being my first convention and all, but hey, sometimes the best things in life are unexpected. This just so happened to be one of those times.
This event featured a cavalcade of independent video games that are currently in development. While some high-profile indie games may see success on a mainstream level, there are quite a few that don’t, for a variety of reasons. It’s unfortunate — games are not easy to make, and many of these games were actually quite good — from what I played at least.
Of the games I was able to play, I was able to narrow it down to 5 games that really caught my attention. These games made by small teams of people really blew me away, reminded me why I love video games, and got me excited for the future of these titles. The only disappointment I felt was when the convention ended, because I left knowing I couldn’t go home and play these just quite yet.
Killer Queen Black
Developed by Liquid Bit, Killer Queen Black is an objective based, team oriented competitive action game with some platforming. The matches are short, sweet, and satisfying. In this game, you play as a member of a bug colony who must overcome their adversaries (another colony) in one of three ways: Military, Economic, or Snail.
A military victory requires that the opposing team’s Queen be killed 3 times, an economic victory calls for Drones to pick up berries and use them to fill the holes present in their bases, while a snail victory involves a Drone piloting a snail, located in the center of the stage, to their respective team’s flag. This objective-based gameplay makes the game stand out from other popular multiplayer games, which generally call for simply outlasting/eliminating the other players. Having three different ways to win manages to keep the intensity at an all time high, and pushes the player to try to support their teammates, no matter what class they are.
For example, an allied Drone of mine might be trying to bring the snail into our victory flag, but they won’t get far if they don’t have the proper protection. If I, the Queen, am around my drone, I can help protect them from threats that might get in their way. However, I also run the risk of losing one of three precious lives, and if I’m on my last life, there’s an even greater risk of me possibly losing the game for my team, should another enemy get to me. The matches are very quick and hectic, but there’s just enough room for some light tactics. Combine that with tight controls and some great art direction, and you’ve got one killer game.
You can keep up with the game on their official website. Killer Queen Black is currently expected to be released in Q3 2019 for the Nintendo Switch and Windows, and in Q4 2019 for the Xbox One. The Windows version is now available to wishlist on Steam.
Totem is a single-player narrative driven hack’n’slash with some puzzle elements developed by Other Moon Games. You play as a young girl named Mara, who must defeat various Beasts so that she may take their forms to aid her as she goes on a journey to save the world from utter peril. I got to play a demo that was ~15 minutes long, and you know how they say time flies when you’re having fun? Well, lets just say it was a very quick quarter-hour.
This game has some tight controls in every sense of the word. In some ways, it feels like a cross between Hyper Light Drifter and God of War (2018), and it totally works. One aspect of the gameplay that really stood out to me was the weapon wielded by Mara, the Axe. It served as both my primary weapon in combat and my primary tool in puzzles, which is why I was really happy to find that it felt so damn good to use. Whether I was hitting enemies at close range, throwing it and recalling it at will to keep distance, or throwing it at different objects to solve puzzles, every use of the axe delivered a sense of satisfaction that evoke feelings similar to the first time I played God of War (2018).
Totem’s visuals impressed me as well. The pixel-art looks beautiful, with characters that have unique and interesting designs. I saw a lot of small touches, such as vibrant idle animations, that managed to really breathe life into some of these characters, and make this game a joy to look at. The story was touched on briefly in the demo, but not too much. However, based on conversations with the developers, as well as information from the website of the game, this will indeed be a very story-driven, single player experience. After getting some time with this game, this is definitely going to be one to keep your eye on, and I for one can’t wait for another opportunity to jump back into it.
If you’re interested in keeping up with this game, check out the developer’s website for more information. Totem is planned to launch on PC, Mac, and the Nintendo Switch.
It should be noted that I am not a game designer. But, if I was, I probably would’ve tried to design something like Disjunction. I was practically raised on Metal Gear, and this game speaks to my soul. Developed by Ape Tribe Games, this is a cyber-punk, stealth-action RPG that is sure to appeal to players looking to get their sneak on.
The gameplay here should look familiar to anyone who has experience with the stealth-action genre. What really makes the game stand out to me is how much of a role choice plays in the game. In the demo I played, I was presented with an objective, and some tools—namely, weapons (both lethal and non-lethal). Additionally, my informant made sure to stress that I shouldn’t kill anyone during my mission. From that point on, it was completely up to me how I utilize these tools to accomplish my objective. Should I make use of my non-lethal equipment to obey my informant’s orders? Or should I throw caution to the wind — leaving behind a trail of dead bodies in pursuit of my goal? One person I watched play went for a more lethal, louder approach. I, however, opted for a more subdued, less deadly method. Your actions in-game can have a direct impact on the story, but that’s not the only way the narrative is developed.
Dialogue options play a role in the overarching narrative as well. After I had completed my objective, I had a debriefing with the informant. She asked for me to hand over the intel I had acquired, and I was presented with a choice: Do I hand over the intel outright? Extort her for money? Or maybe I should just lie, say that I don’t have the intel on me, maybe keep it for an unknown future use? I ultimately chose to lie, for which I was told that I would regret. Despite the demo ending right there, the stakes definitely felt real.
I walked away from this demo for Disjunction feeling like I had played a small part of a much larger story, and I cannot wait to see what that story holds. For more information on Disjunction, you can keep up with them on their website, on which there is even a playable demo available for download. Disjunction is also available to wishlist on Steam.
Developed by Oxhead Studios, Mazu caught my eye from across the room, particularly because of it’s wonderful pixel-art and animation. I came for the looks, but stayed for the hectic, fast-paced gameplay. And boy, am I glad I did.
This game tries to do a lot of things, and of the things I saw it try to do in this demo, I’d say it’s doing them well so far. In Mazu, you play as Xun, a youth who must set out to save the world while trying to find her place in it. Part of this journey involves adventuring through a procedurally generated dungeon, which can hold a variety of enemies. I liked what I saw of this game for the same reason I liked DOOM (2016), the gameplay is momentum based. This game is a hack n’ slash bullet hell, so it’s fitting that it’s as fast as it is. I did not have a moment to stand still in the demo as I ventured from room to room encountering all kinds of enemies. Never knowing what you might encounter in the next room helped keep things fresh, tense, and exhilarating.
From a conversation with one of the designers of the game, this is a game that will stress player choice, particularly in play style. You can either sink a lot of time into developing Xun’s abilities so that you might be more prepared going into combat, or, if you’re feeling confident in your skill alone, you could try charging through the story as fast as you want. You get to experience the game however you want to, and this seems to be shaping up to be one hell of an experience that I can’t wait to get lost in.
For more information on Mazu, you can keep up with them on their website, where you can view gameplay, check out music featured in the game, and even download a playable demo.
Super Space Club
Super Space Club allowed me to do something that many of us have trouble with. Whether it be due to stress, time, or other factors, it’s a simple fact of life that relaxation can be hard to come by. As much as I love video games, and as much as I loved my time at Play NYC, I can admit that it was exhausting. Fortunately, GrahamOfLegend, the developer behind this gem, managed to solve that problem for me. It was towards the end of the day that I came across Super Space Club, which is only fitting, as it allowed me to relax by getting lost in its cool, lo-fi tunes, while keeping me engaged with satisfying gameplay.
The gameplay here is that of a top down, arcade-style shooter reminiscent of Asteroids, in which the player guides a ship through various levels filled with enemy ships, as well as other obstacles. What really stood out to me here was how the player controls the ship. Playing on a controller, the triggers were used to control the gas, while the left analog stick simply controlled the direction the ship was facing. The physics involved in movement felt great, particularly when it came to dogfights with enemy ships. My favorite scenes involving spaceships in Star Wars were always the intense dogfights. The strafing, the quick changes of direction, the risky, yet rewarding choice to charge towards an opposing starfighter — man, I love that shit. Being able to reenact some of those maneuvers in the brief demo I had the pleasure of playing made the game all the more enjoyable to me. It's difficult to put into words, but there's just something about coming out on top of some enemy ships giving chase to you through an asteroid belt.
Small touches, such as the way a chem-trail follows ships as they glide across the map, meshed extremely well with the colorful background seen in the demo. Visually, this game is very pretty to look at. The cherry on top of everything else ends up being the music. The music featured in the demo really sucked me in, letting me feel at peace as I strafed around enemies, blowing them up while weaving in and out of asteroid fields. In all, the demo left a positive impression on me. It played, looked, and sounded great, and I’m looking forward to joining the (Super Space) Club when it launches on PC and Mac.
You can keep up with Super Space Club on developer GrahamOfLegend’s website. The game is available to wishlist on Steam right now.
My time at Play NYC was filled with wonder and excitement, not just because of the games listed above, but also from being able to have one-on-one conversations with the developers as they described in depth the history and development of their games. The amount of passion and hard work put into many of the titles I saw was insane. As mentioned before, games are hard work, they are art. It takes a lot of guts to make a game, and even more so to show off an unfinished version to the public at a convention like this. No matter where you live, chances are that you likely have a local convention or two every so often, and I strongly implore you to check them out. Before I went to this convention, I had no idea that many of these games even existed, but now, I can’t wait for them to be released. Sometimes the best things in life are unexpected, so take a chance, support your local conventions, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that you can’t wait to come out - you just haven’t played it yet.